First, can we dispense with the nonsense that Bannon resigned two weeks ago? If that were true he would have leaked it to Breitbart and had them break the news, to emphasize that he determined his own fate. With Drudge, who’s been hostile to Bannon lately, and the NYT breaking it instead, it’s easier to believe that Bannon was fired, as CNN claims. The story about resignation feels like something thrown together after the axe fell so that Bannon could save face. Or, at worst, he gave Trump a resignation letter two weeks ago and told him something like, “If you really want me out, you can accept this. But I’d like to stay.” That would have been characteristically crafty, as it would allow Bannon to say afterward that he quit when, for all intents and purposes, he was fired.

Anyway. Now it’s lit.

Sources are whispering similar things to other reporters

If you don’t believe anonymous sources, here’s Breitbarter Joel Pollak making Bannon’s and the site’s intentions plain as day:

I’ve been doubling down lately on the theory that Bannon sort of wanted to get fired, or at least wasn’t strongly opposed to the idea. News reports claimed that he had been sidelined in the White House. With his ally, Reince Priebus, replaced by a chief of staff who demanded greater control over access to the president and Trump’s agenda adrift and perpetually derailed by needless controversies, Bannon may have seen this as a fine time to parachute out and resume his role as populist ringleader. It’s no fun getting muscled by Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. It’ll be a lot of fun flaming the hell out of them, and Trump, for selling out to “globalism.”

Vanity Fair reported this morning, before Bannon was dumped, that his allies in populist media were also increasingly fine with the idea of Bannon breaking his White House chains and reentering the political fray.

Nobody I spoke to, however, thought that Bannon needed to remain in the White House to influence the president. On the contrary, multiple people told me that they thought the chief strategist would be more powerful on the outside, where he could return to his previous role as a conservative media bomb-thrower. Whether Bannon himself has such a strategy in mind is another matter. Stranahan claimed that he knew of several people within Breitbart who had e-mailed Bannon suggesting that he return to the company, though their e-mails went unanswered. And Cernovich had an even more trollish answer: “It’s in my selfish interest for Bannon to get fired, actually,” he said, adding that he missed the hell-raising Bannon of old. “It would be a lot more fun if Bannon were back in the game, as it were.”

[Patrick] Howley, who had left Breitbart to start the America First Project, a political advocacy group, with Bannon’s blessing, told me he was frustrated with how little of the populist-nationalist agenda had been accomplished. “My expectation for the Trump administration was gonna be a lot different than how it turned out,” he said, blaming Priebus for blocking several of Bannon’s appointees and cutting off his support. ”I want him to be as effective as possible. If he’s not going to be able to be as effective [in the White House], maybe he can do something else.”

Now he’s back in the game. CNN reports that Bannon’s seemingly bizarre interview a few days ago in which he undermined Trump’s North Korea policy was one of the last straws for the president, but in hindsight there was method to the madness. As Ben Shapiro says, Bannon knew he was on thin ice and would likely be rejoining the world of populist media sooner rather than later as a Trump antagonist, so he decided to separate himself from the president in a showy way. He and Trump are going to arm-wrestle now for control of the populist-nationalist base and dovishness on foreign policy is part of that. For the same reason, though, Bannon was careful in the same interview to align with Trump on his Charlottesville comments. He won’t bash him just to bash him. The attacks will come along lines of insufficient ideological purity, as they always do in partisan media. The difference is, whereas Republican leaders used to suffer those attacks from conservatives, now Trump will be dealing with it from nationalists.

Congratulations to Anthony Scaramucci, by the way, who in the span of three weeks has seen his three nemeses, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, and now Bannon, follow him out of the White House. One early question for the coming Trump/Bannon war: How will Bannon handle Trump’s deteriorating relationship with congressional Republicans? The White House versus Ryan and McConnell will be a major storyline in politics over the next 15 months but Bannon is now pitted against both sides, for different reasons. It’s unthinkable that he’d back the establishment over Trump — he’d ruin his populist credibility doing so — but Bannon doesn’t want to have to delay his revenge on Trump indefinitely to take the president’s side in an endless battle with Congress.

Update: Another key early question: How do the Mercers play this?

Update: A hint of the Mercers’ intentions?

I’d be surprised if Bannon is content to return to Breitbart now that he’s a nationally famous political figure whose every move will be watched. I think he’ll look hard at television. Remember, Rupert Murdoch reportedly had been leaning on Trump for awhile to boot Bannon. Bannon could exact revenge and seize a market opportunity by launching a populist alternative to Fox News.

Update: Out of the gate fast:

Update: “Globalists” celebrate!

Update: Here we go!

Update: As noted, Drudge has conspicuously supported Team Jared for awhile now in highlighting unflattering coverage of Bannon, Bannon wants revenge for that too:

Media relationships are important in the White House, Nunberg said, and the fact that Drudge hasn’t given Breitbart a hyperlink in months and didn’t like Bannon hurt him.

“It’s not lost on Steve or Breitbart staff that Drudge was out for Steve,” Nunberg said.

“Drudge has been relentless against him,” another Bannon ally said.